Camera RAW Is For Chumps

Camera RAW

I don’t have to tell you about the joys of the Camera RAW format. Oh, I do? Nah, go look it up. If you’re a photographer in 2017 shooting with a DSLR and not shooting RAW for your stills, well, not much I can do to help you.

A lot of us have been shooting in RAW for more than a decade. The Camera RAW format and the nondestructive workflow it engenders is one of the primary reasons why digital photography is so delightful. When you can pick up your camera and shoot in virtually any light, knowing you can correct for it later, well, that’s pretty powerful firewater. And, admit it, over the decade or so we’ve had it, we’ve gotten a little complacent. Taken it just a little for granted. Shoot first, calculate later. Fix it in post. You know the drill.

And digital video is just a bunch of stills, 24 per second, hammered together, how different can it be? Super-different. Remember that time I mentioned I learn something with every video shoot? This is one of those somethings. My early video shoots I thought of just like my stills shoots. It’s totally understandable, yet heartbreaking, the moment you realize that video is mostly baked in when you shoot and the only thing you’re likely to fix in post is a slight colorcast.

I might be hewing a little too tight a line here; you certainly can “fix things in post” in video, but nowhere near the amount you can with Camera RAW in the stills world.

My own come to Jesus moment in matters of exposure came during a shoot in New York’s Chinatown. The golden light had faded into sodium-vapor streetlights. I was so distracted worrying about how the actor couldn’t even remember the freakin’ 14 lines of the sonnet that I slipped a little on exposure and color balance. And whacked myself on the head repeatedly when I learned that you really can’t fix things in video like I’d gotten used to in stillsville.

Of course, it’s best to shoot everything right on, even with Camera RAW. But in video land? Whip out that old light meter you haven’t used in a decade, and bust out the colorimeter with it. Spend just a little extra time making sure your exposures and color balance are as optimal as you can get. Don’t be a chump. Pull up your big girl pants and nail that exposure and color balance to the wall. Check it twice. Now roll camera.

Photographer and filmmaker Chris X Carroll has been fired upon by Norwegian whalers north of the Arctic Circle, swum naked with REM, taught Viscount Charles Spencer to sail, and turned to ask Elizabeth Taylor if the melon he was holding was ripe at a grocery store before realizing who she was and nearly passing out. Visit Chris at, and follow him on Instagram @chrisxcarroll and on Facebook at chrisxcarroll

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